Monday, September 24, 2007

The Human Pet of Gorilla Land

I've often expressed my admiration for comic stories featuring gorillas, and one of the masters of such stories is Carmine Infantino, co-creator of Gorilla Grodd in The Flash. One of his gorilla masterpieces, though, is the short story "The Human Pet of Gorilla Land," originally published in Strange Adventures 108 (1959) and reprinted in From Beyond the Unknown 14 (1971-1972).

In the far future, space-patrolman Dan Fuller answers an APB for two "Jovian confidence men" name Klobe and Groster. As is common in DC sci-fi comics of the 50s, the future is not much different from the present, except that most things have the prefix "space-" attached to their names.

The Jovian's land on a previously uncharted planet, where the natives are giant intelligent gorillas who communicate telepathically through "thought stones."

The gorillas turn out to be friendly, and the Jovians decide to take advantage of them by working out a deal: in exchange for a load of thought stones, the Jovians will provide the gorilla with new "pets." One of the major selling points, it appears, is that the pets come in a wide selection of colors.

The Jovians, however, offer only a "vanilla" sample, if you will, in the form of space-patrolman Dan Fuller.

A young gorilla lad takes on Dan as a pet at a pet store in the city of "Gorilla Land." (I find it funny that John Broome imagined that a planet of intelligent gorillas would name their cities after their own species. That's like having cities named "Human Town" and "Personville.")

I love the little domestic scene laid out here: dad reads the paper, mom knits, and junior plays with his new pet. However, the fun is only short-lived, as Dan manages to get ahold of junior's thought stone and convinces him that he is a sentient being and not a pet.

Soon, Dan and junior are off on junior's scooter to track down the Jovians.

That one-wheeled scooter is a perfect example of Infantino technology. Note, also, that Dan's size in relation to the gorillas seems to change from panel to panel.

Junior and Dan capture the Jovians, and the story's penultimate panel sets up some nice potential irony: it is now the Jovians who will be locked in a cage.

However, Dan, unable to imagine outside of his own anthrocentric perspective, decides to reward junior by subjecting another creature to the circumstances that Dan himself found unbearable:

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